Power Outages Endanger Small Businesses

June 28, 2019

By Erik Linask - Group Editorial Director

As part of a digital world, all of us – businesses and consumers – are entirely dependent on electricity to function.  Our business equipment and home appliances, electronics, digital services, HVAC systems, lighting all depend on a constant power source.  When that fails, we’re unable to conduct our daily activities, whether personal or professional.  While most outages are relatively short, extended outages can have a significant impact on consumers and businesses.

A family in Aurora, Colorado was without power for more than a week (June 10-19), causing significant hardship for the single mother, Tara Smith, and her family.  According to Denver7, Smith and her two daughters used dry ice to keep their refrigerator cold – but they had no way to cook.  To make matters worse, one of the children requires daily treatments for her asthma using an electrically powered machine, for which they went to various local establishments each day. 

Smith’s landlord refused to reduce her monthly rent, despite failing to meet Colorado regulations that state tenants must be provided utility services.  Instead, the management company claimed power was turned off for non-payment, though Xcel Energy told her it was disconnected for safety reasons.  The power was restored on July 19, without any additional payment having been made to the utility company.

But, because Smith, an Uber and Lyft driver, was unable to work for nearly two week while taking care of her family, the rent remained an issue.  Fortunately, two local viewers saw the story and set up a GoFundMe site to help cover the rent for the month – within an hour, a single donor donated the $1,000 needed. 

Though this outage very limited – nothing like some of the widespread outages that happen over the course of the year – its impact was significant due to its length.  If one mother is unable to pay rent after nearly a two-week outage, think of the impact on a small business that isn’t able to operate for two weeks.  There’s a good chance it could be so devastating the business would be forced to shut down.

That’s exactly what could happen to any business if its operational systems are damaged during a power outage, electrical storm, or power surge.  The circuits in technology are fragile and can easily be broken by dirty power – abnormalities in power supplies, like low or high voltage, voltage variations, or surges.  If systems are damaged, repairs could take days or weeks, depending on the availability of appropriate replacements. 

To prevent such a catastrophe, business owners need to ensure only clean power is being delivered to their technology by installing power protection systems.  These systems, which can be designed to fit any sized business, regulate line voltage, ensuring that power distributed within the business is at a constant voltage, reducing risk of damage.  Any technology – servers, switches, storage arrays, firewalls, communications systems – that are critical to business operations, should be protected.  Without a power protection system, business owners are putting their revenue generation at risk, along with the well being of employees and families. 

Edited by Erik Linask